Murray, on style of play

I figured this question/answer was worth its own post because it might generate some discussion. This is where Terry Murray talks about how he would like to see the team play, and I think a good percentage of you will like the answer.

I’ve only transcribed about 30 of the 50 minutes, so there’s plenty more to come, resuming in the morning. Here’s the last part for tonight…

Question: Will you come in with a style of play that you want the Kings to play, or will that be determined more by what you see in training camp?

MURRAY: No, I have a style. You can’t wait and see. We’re coming in as a new coaching staff and we need to have a system, a style, a philosophy, and put it in place right from the first day of training camp. As we mentioned earlier, we want to be able to sit down with the leadership group and talk about that philosophy and that system that we want to put in place. Then we go on the ice and they’re able to set the tone of how it is with the drills. That’s important.

What’s important for me right now is, you can look at statistics and I’ve watched games, sure. I’ve watched games and I’ve watched individuals and style of play and special teams and all that. But what’s important, when you look at the numbers, is that you have to have some value on the checking side of the game. That’s what I want to bring right away. We’ve got to cut back on goals against. We’ve got to be a good team defensively. All the better teams are, and that’s the way you’re going to win. You’re going to put pressure on teams with your checking style. The players have to believe that there is true value in checking. `When you don’t have the puck, what are you going to do? How are you going to play?’ And if you want to score, you have to have the puck, so you’ve got to go get it. The value of that is something I’m going to sell right from the very beginning. And again, on the defensive side of the game we’ve got to cut down on our goals against. We’ve got to give our goalies better support, and that’s a priority for me.

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  • JDM

    Rich, I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate the full transcriptions. Your a workhorse, and reading everything said is so much more satisfying that pulled quotes.

    On to Murray, a lot of that is the obvious thing to say (cut down on goals against, need to have the puck, etc.), but I really like the emphasis on the checking side of the game. If we aren’t talented enough to pass and dispy around the other teams defense game in and game out, then we at the very least need to be hitting people.

    SO many times last season I’d watch a forward skate right by someone who just passed the puck. Why not hit that guy, every time? Unless it’s right in front of your own net, but in the offensive zone? God it was frustrating. It’s not like you can zip up to the blue line from behind the opponents goal as fast as the puck, HIT THE GUY!

    So yeah… I like it. Nice and simple. Hopefully this style will compliment some open space for Kopitar and such, because I don’t want to watch a neutral zone trap team just waiting for mistakes all night. But this sounds like a “make you’re own opportunities type of style.”

  • russell

    Hey Rich… You are the best. I now check your site 1st and foremost.These kind of sessions are what I am looking for. Can you do some with some of the core players during training camp? Keep up the good work!

  • Duckhunter

    I like this guy already. Compete every night and every shift, to go along with some team defense and team hitting. Oh baby!!! I like it.

    My first thought after reading this, was who going to fulfill this style. Our personnel doesn’t exactly fit this type of hockey. Frolov might have a hard time adjusting to this system. I personally think their going to challenge him to be more physical. What happens if he doesn’t fulfill those expectations?

  • Datacloud

    I think Frolov is one of the best guys in the league at stripping the puck, at least on the forecheck, which I assume is part of the “checking” game Murray is talking about. There has never been a need for physicality on his part. JMO.

  • John

    Duckhunter, Frolov is one of the most physical forwards on the hockey club. He may not be physical in the Brown-style but the guy’s a puckhog! He’ll do just fine in whatever system Murray puts in place.

  • cristobal

    I would much preferred to hear Murray talk ad nauseum about puck-possession. The kings already know how to check, as Dustin Brown’s statistics alone prove. The reason a guy like Larionov would be good as a coach, if he wants to be one, is that he would stress puck-possession. Chasing down the puck and gaining possession is pointless if you just turn it right back over, or don’t know what to do when you’ve got it.

    duckhunter – you’ll probably hammer me for being negative, but shouldn’t (Compete every night and every shift, to go along with some team defense and team hitting) be the basics of any NHL team? If Murray was trying to say “keep it simple stupid” i get it, but I wonder about the lack of “philosophy” in this section.

    Other than that, I like what he’s got to say and the subtraction of Crawford can only mean the team that takes the ice is getting better.

  • cristobal
  • Duckhunter

    I agree cristobal, they should be a regular part of the strategy, but in most cases last year we didn’t do any of the above. Passion wasn’t always there, defense certainly wasn’t there and team hitting means more than Brown. I give O’Sul high props for at least trying to throw his 100 lb body around. Obviously he’s better suited to do others things. So hopefully Murray can implement these qualities to the ice. Again I wonder how we’re going to be more aggressive with our current roster?

    Datacloud, I would have to agree with you on Frolovs fancy stick control and stealing capability. I’m just wondering if that will be enough. I don’t know, just thinking out loud. Just wondering to what extent Murray’s meaning of checking is.

  • Quisp

    I don’t think there’s — as Cristobal put it — a lack of “philosophy.” He’s talking about checking style. It’s not a matter of (merely) keeping it simple. It’s a matter of executing a checking discipline across four lines, not having a checking line and a speed line and an energy line and a finesse line and an old veteran overthehill scorers line or whatever. Of course there will be lines with different skills and different offensive potentials. But what he’s talking about is selling EVERYONE on the advantages of EVERYONE investing in a system that will yield wins as well as goals.

    I’m just old enough to remember when checking commonly referred to stick checks (poke, sweep, etc.) as much as body checks, and when “checking” wasn’t primarily about knocking people senseless but was about POSITION, about being in a better position after the check than before it (for a counter example, see many of Rob Blake’s famous ass checks, which frequently occurred on the same play as an opposing team’s goal). “Finishing a check” meant not “finishing the kill” but staying with the checked opponent and keeping him “in check” to your team’s best advantage. Frolov, in the old school sense, is one of the best checkers in the league. His checks are stick checks. The reason what Murray is saying is music to my ears is that what he’s talking about, strategically, does not require a bunch of mean sonsofbitches; it requires well-conditioned, intelligent well-rounded hockey players without oversized egos who know what it means to play as a team. Playing as a team means nothing if not sticking to a system that works. As many have noted (and Murray obviously knows), one of the remarkable attributes of the Kings’ prospect pool is their leadership skills. These are precisely the kinds of kids you want in a system like this.

    And Kopitar, the biggest star on the team, is a coach’s son. There is simply no way he won’t take to this like a duck to water. Am I allowed to say duck?

    Anyway, I don’t think Murray is just spouting platitudes.

    It is 58 days, 19 hours, 1 minute and 49 seconds until Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 7:00:00 PM (Los Angeles time)

  • JonG

    “You’re going to put pressure on teams with your checking style.”

    “if you want to score, you have to have the puck, so you’ve got to go get it”

    All right now! By far my biggest complaint from last season was the passive play in our own zone. I’ll take aggressive mistakes over sleepwalking any day.

    Other than these comments, the rest of what Murray had to say was pretty unenlightening. More than anything, I get the sense that Murray feels this is just one more stop for him as a career coach. He’ll probably be a steady hand at the tiller until we’re ready to compete for the Cup.

  • cristobal

    duckhunter and quisp – you brought up good points, and thinking about it, this year WILL be about basics. And you’ve got to get the basics down well, and then move on. You have convinced me that this guy’s on the right track.

    I would like to have thought of this before, but it would be great to know if Murray has confidence in Lombardi’s ability to bring in the type of players he can work with. It is a big hope of ours that he’s drafting these types, but he’ll also have to delve back into trading and fa signing at some point.

  • Buzzsaw

    Checking is a good thing but it is only one of the things the Kings need to greatly improve on. Besides goaltending, the Kings need to also work on their passing game; both in throwing good passes and being able to catch a less-thna-perfect pass. It was frustrating to watch the Kings fumble with the puck in their own zone, miss-fire on easy power play breakouts, continually resort to the dump and chase to clear the puck, etc. I can’t believe it’s a skill level issue but rather a result of Crawford always mixing up the lines and, probably simply not stressing this aspect of the game.

  • Duckhunter

    Quisp, nice run down of what checking means. Makes a lot of sense. Correct me if I’m wrong, it seems they call holding or obstruction now on that old style of checking. (body checking)- meaning check and maintain body position, which usually means being entangled. Did I make any sense there at all?

  • cristobal

    Oh Sh*t – I just realized Tukonen would have been a perfect fit with this guy.

  • Quisp

    Buzzsaw –

    I agree, but I do think Murray’s definition of checking includes a chess-like sense of positioning, which is the sine-qua-non of everything else you mentioned (passing, breakouts, etc.). Really, think of Nick Lidstrom. He rarely destroys someone. But he is very quietly ALWAYS in EXACTLY the right place with the right decision at the right time.

    I agree with you to the nth degree about mixing up the lines. Some amount of it is necessary for many reasons, but Crawford reverts to it like a tick, with often disastrous results.

  • Quisp

    Duckhunter —

    That made perfect sense (at least to me, though I AM crazy). There is an art to knowing just when to release a (body) check, and it does change with the eras (and even within a single game), depending on what they’re calling and not calling. Nevertheless, by definition you are allowed to check a player who has possession of the puck (if he doesn’t, it’s textbook interference obviously). Once the puck has moved on, however, a legal body check can BECOME interference if you stay entangled, which is what you’re describing. However, consider how much can happen in even one short second in a hockey game. Two bang-bang passes, for instance. Or, the player you just checked could get off the boards and move 8-10 feet toward the front of the net or some other advantageous position (for him). One second. Imagine how disruptive it would be to be able to move the other team’s players 8-10 feet out of position for every previously unfinished check that is now finished. For your opposition, being constantly out of position, behind the play, etc., is both physically and mentally exhausting. Of course, the flip side is that it’s also physically exhausting for you the check finisher. It’s much easier not to finish your check. You have to use muscles. It saps endurance. This is where conditioning comes in.

    The other nice but often overlooked benefit of finishing your check is that, for the one second he has to deal with you, not only is your opponent out of position, but he literally can’t see what’s going on around him. His back may be to the play, but even if it’s not, he’s busy dealing with you. It’s just a second. But mentally, he has to check out and check back in. Again, consider the advantage of being able to blindfold your opponent for one second intervals throughout the game. Also consider that for you, the check finisher, it’s a freebie. You’re already there (having just made the check). Provided that you’re in proper physical condition, it’s there for the taking. (no coincidence that Nordstrom, the Kings best check finisher in my recent memory, was also supposed to be in insanely good physical shape.)

  • Duckhunter

    Quisp that was great thanks.

    BTW I like crazy people. I’m a little rough around the edges myself. 🙂

    I played a few sports in the higher levels on the defensive side of the ball. So I have a certain mentality for aggressive play. And that doesn’t always mean physical play(which I don’t mind either), It can mean, as you say being in constant position, which makes the other person work harder. It can simply mean putting constant pressure(in his face), to take a person out of their game, as well as the big hit. What do all these things have in common? You need to be in great shape to carry them out, just as you say. Physical conditioning is everything.

    What’s your best guess on how our defense is going to be next year? I’m scared

  • yesitscal

    Quisp, I think you came up with the magic word–positioning! Yes, it’s about finishing your checks, but you have to finish your check and then get back into the play right away. Sometimes it’s not hitting someone that’s going to end a play, it’s going to be being in that spot so an opponent can’t pass the puck to his intended target. Keep in mind, though, that this works both ways and the Kings are going to have to have a constantly flowing offense with good puck movement, too.

    Duckhunter, the lack of veteran leadership on the blue line worries me. Preissing has some experience, but I don’t think that anyone is going to mistake this guy for a leader.

  • Quisp

    Duckhunter –

    My best guess? Well, I should say that if I did not read this blog and was therefore ignorant of everyone else’s opinion of our defense, I would I think be blissfully ignorant and hopeful. Knowing how worried everyone else is gives me some pause and causes me to put a giant asterisk next to my opinion. And it should be noted that I am almost always overly optimistic with regard to predictions.

    That said…

    The first thing I think is that no matter what happens our defense is better this year than last year. This is based on the following math: losing Blake is addition by subtraction. Lubo, while generally reliable, was not reliable last year. Stuart, whom I like a lot, was nevertheless bad for half of last season. Those guys were/are all veterans and were all liabilities for much of 07-08.

    Preissing, Gauthier and Greene are vets. I expect the Kings will add another vet. So that’s four of seven as vets. That’s not horrible. I expect Preissing to rebound from last season, especially when given more quality ice-time. Remember he was plus-50000000 or whatever in OTT.

    Big bodies: Gauthier, Greene and a year-older Johnson… in terms of youth, mobility and meanness, that’s an upgrade over Blake, Stuart and Johnson (mostly because Blake is rickety and unreliable — again, I like Stuart). More big bodies is always better, but three is a solid base.

    Smarts: Johnson, Doughty, Preissing, Hickey, Martinez, Harrold (not that Hickey is ready this year) are all smart.

    Quickness/offensive upside: Johnson, Doughty, Hickey, Harrold.

    Power Play: without Blake, Stuart and Lubo, we will finally see lots of Johnson PP time, I think (hope). Doughty and Johnson with Stoll (who plays D on the power play) and the not-yet-acquired left-shooting mobile veteran D man (Schneider?) will I think be more than serviceable.

    I think the general theme is that the Kings do need to pick up one more defenseman, ideally left-shooting, ideally a wily veteran. The short answer to your question I guess is, if they do this, I would feel pretty good about our prospects. If they don’t, things become more uncertain…but with that uncertainty comes a greater chance that guys like Martinez make the team this year, and I can’t help but be excited by that.

    And remember that Murray and Hardy are crotchety old d men.

    So I personally would downgrade “scared” to “nervous but excited.” However, as I said, I routinely err on the side of optimism.

  • Irish Pat

    His answers are exciting and somewhat odd. Exciting because who doesn’t like a hard working team that checks and plays tough defense and odd because he intends to instill his style of play instead of bending to a more fixed maxim of what Lombardi wants. Don’t most organizations that are successful in any sport have a clear idea of the style of play they want from their players in both the minor leagues and the big leagues? Not to say that Terry Murray’s methods are radically different, but will the Monarchs now have to change their style so players will adapt better to the Kings when called up? I am a Lombardi supporter, but there have been a few flags flown that certainly make me think that he is adjusting on the fly a little more than he lets on.

  • Quisp

    Irish Pat –

    What do you see as the discrepancies between what TM is describing and what DL has said previously, and/or what’s going on in Manchester? To me, as a general principle, Murray’s comments sound like a kind of rebuilding in the sense of returning to fundamentals.

  • Irish Pat


    My perception of the Kings style of play last year was that it was a little more wide open then what TM is describing the Kings will play this season. Any team that gets a new coach usually gets someone that they think will suit their team, organization, culture, etc. I realize that’s all rhetoric, but it struck me in the interview above that TM stated he’s going to bring in his style of play, not something more along the lines of “Hey, Deano has a system he wants these kids to play in and they’re already doing it in Manchester and I’m working on melding our respective philosophies to bring out the best in our younger players”. It just strikes me as odd that with all of this talk about developing a winning culture, Lombardi doesn’t already have the system at least somewhat implemented. I’m not saying the man is changing his platform, but it seems that he still hasn’t quite laid the foundation for this franchise. I’m also not saying I want either TM or DL to state that as of today the Kings will only play the left wing lock from now until the end of time, but I thought the culture would have already been planted by now. I guess Lombardi is still discovering what it is he actually has on his hands. I am excited to see these kids grow and become NHL studs, as I’m sure 99% of Kings fans are, and I will be patient, but I just think it takes more than players to build a winner and TM’s comments threw up a red flag for me, albeit a minor one. Phew, I need a drink.

  • Duckhunter

    Alright Quisp, you sold me. I will upgrade to “nervous but excited. Wish I could envision how both Green and Gauthier play, but know nothing about them, so I taking your word on this one. I feel Murray is going to expect better defense from the forwards as well, so that bodes well for the defense as a whole.

    Irish Pat, I have the same feeling as you. I think we tried to play that wide open, “New NHL” style last year. For whatever reason it didn’t work out to well for us. I definitely think adjustments were made to counter our lack of def. and team softness.

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